I’m going to be really honest with you. On June 1st of last season there wasn’t a single teenage pitching prospect in the Royals system that I was REALLY excited about. Carlos Hernandez was just kind of coming into his own, but he was already 20. Delvin Capellan was tearing up the DSL, but there wasn’t much video of him at all and it was still the DSL. Nolan Watson and Ashe Russell were both in no mans land and falling out of prospect status as 20-year olds.
The Royals farm system was ranked as the worst farm system in baseball for a reason. Think about that for a second. They didn’t have a single pitcher below the age of 20 worth caring too much about. That is incredibly. Again, Capellan was an interesting story last year, but to have too high of expectations for him would have been unfair.
Fast forward 14 months. As of August 1, 2018, the Royals have not one, not two, not…sorry. The Royals now have FIVE (5) teenage pitching prospects that I am REALLY excited about. I mean, really really excited about (notice the caps and double “really”). Let’s take a look at five guys that are currently pitching in the lower levels of Minor League Baseball that need to be on your prospect radar as we wrap up the 2018 season.
Charlie Neuweiler, RHP, 19, A
The Royals 5th round pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, Charlie Neuweiler has been really impressive so far in his time with the Royals. After posting a 1.76 ERA in 41 IP last season in rookie ball, Neuweiler currently owns a 2.61 ERA in 38 IP with the Lexington Legends. Neuweiler’s K/9 are up to 8.53 with Lexington and his GB% remains a steady 46%. His fastball has reportedly been anywhere from 92-95 and his curveball is absolutely filthy.
There are only five teenage pitchers to throw at least 30 innings in the South Atlantic League so far in 2018. Neuweiler’s 2.61 ERA ranks second only to the Orioles DL Hall and his 1.18 WHIP is also tied for second among those five teenagers. His 46% GB% leads the pack by a decent margin.
Not many teenagers pitch in the South Atlantic League. Only 51 teenagers have thrown at least 30 innings in the league over the last five years, and if you looked at the list of names, you’d probably recognize a lot of them. Of those 51 teenagers to throw 30 innings in the SALLY since 2014, only 11 posted an ERA lower than Neuweiler’s current mark. His success in full-season ball at the age of 19 has been really impressive, and Neuweiler is a guy that could very well wind up in the Royals top 10 prospects by the end of next season.
Yefri Del Rosario, RHP, 18, A
Perhaps equally as impressive as what Neuweiler is doing as a 19-year old in the SALLY is what del Rosario is doing as an 18-year old. Del Rosario is currently the only 18-year old to throw at least 30 innings in the SALLY this season. Since 2010 there have only been TWELVE (12) 18-year olds to throw 30 innings in the SALLY. That’s a little over one per season. Del Rosario is on a very short list of 18-year olds to pitch in full-season ball over the last decade or so and he’s held his own while doing so.
After throwing 6 innings of 2-run ball on Wednesday, Del Rosario lowered his season ERA to 4.42. In addition to that impressive feat, Del Rosario now has 49 strike outs in 55 innings with the Lexington Legends, good for a mark of 8.02 K/9. That number isn’t outstanding, but considering his relatively impressive 2.3 K/BB ratio for his age, you can live with it. Del Rosario’s K/BB ranks 2nd among the 5 teenagers with 30 innings in the SALLY in 2018, and compares pretty well with teenagers overall in the last few seasons. You’d like to see the K’s start to increase as he gains experience, but given his age I’m not too worried about that yet.
I recently ranked Del Rosario as my 11th overall Royals prospect. The numbers for Del Rosario are pretty good, but I love what I see on film. The kid’s delivery seems to be so smooth and I think he has a good chance to stick as a starter despite his frame. When you watch the video below, you’ll immediately get the Yordano Ventura comp. While he kind of looks like Ace, he reminds me more of a young Julio Teheran than Ventura. Del Rosario’s off-speed stuff will need some work, but, again, the kid is still just 18. I think the Royals may have picked up a young stud from the Braves debacle this past offseason.
Elvis Luciano, RHP, 18, Rookie
The lottery ticket that Kansas City received in the Jon Jay trade, everything I like about Elvis Luciano at the moment revolves around his delivery. He currently owns a 6.39 ERA with rookie league Burlington, but his 4.86 FIP is truly a bit more promising, as his K:BB ratio and HR/9 are still very manageable. Luciano is getting ground balls 50.9% of the time as well, which are all good signs of a developing 18-year old.
I recently rated Luciano as my #24 Royals prospect. His fastball has been pretty good and his delivery intrigues me. A little bit like Del Rosario, this is more of a scouting crush than a statistical admiration, but I really like what I see from Luciano. I expect we’ll see him in Lexington full time in 2019.
Delvin Capellan, RHP, 19, Rookie
Delvin Capellan was way too good to make 12 starts in the DSL last year. His 0.48 ERA, 7.71 K/9, and 0.48 BB/9 were ridiculous all season long and I was really hoping to get a look at him in Arizona. Unfortunately we had to wait, but Capellan has been really good again in 2018.
After a really impressive season in the DSL, Capellan has come state side and actually seen his K/9 increase in the AZL. Capellan’s off-speed offerings have looked good and his fastball appears to be improving, according to a source that has seen him semi-recently. Also, a guy named Alec Dopp posted some video of Capellan on Twitter the other day. You can watch that here:
Like Luciano, I expect we’ll see Capellan in A-ball with Lexington next year. The two of them are going to be a lot of fun to watch in a rotation that could include….
Yohanse Morel, RHP, 17, Rookie
Yohanse Morel is a 17-year old, so there are obviously a WIDE range of outcomes here, but I love the ceiling. With any 17-year old, there comes a very low floor. Despite his young age, however, Morel has been really impressive in the AZL where his competition has been much older than he is.
There is only one pitcher in the entire Arizona League than Morel with at least 20 IP in 2018. There have only been about 10-15 pitchers in the league that have been better than Morel, and you could argue that there aren’t that many. If you read the site much, you may know that I’m a big fan of Blake Perkins, and think Kelvin Gutierrez has a decent chance to play in the big leagues in some capacity. Yohanse Morel may very well wind up being the steal of the trade. The Royals scouting department is widely praised as being one of the best in the business, and I think they may have found something in Yohanse Morel.
There is a reason that I left Delvin Capellan and Yohanse Morel off of my top 30 list. Having never pitched in a league better than the AZL, it’s really hard to fairly predict their futures. I am extremely excited about them, and they’d probably be 31/32 for me, but you should still be cautious when evaluating these guys. There’s an equal chance that they flame out and never pitch in AA. But I like ’em. I like the way they look on the mound. I like some of the peripheral stats even if they’re giving up some runs. I like that they are guys that the Royals went and found and like at a young age. I like that they’re having all kinds of success at a young age. While it’s fair to be skeptical, I’m optimistic about these kids’ futures.